This week in ark lore, we discuss estateology. What is estateology? It’s a branch of “science” in the Animal Kingdom that tries to explain why certain Animals belong to certain castes.
It is a form of pseudo-science, even though it is not considered that by the Animals in the Kingdom. We take a cue from real-life existing pseudo-scientific ideas such as Biblical literalist chronology or the descriptive parts of eugenic theories, as well as phrenology, etc.
As our game deals with science and its relation to mythology, this pseudo-science which tries to bridge the two is an important motif that the player will encounter and investigate several times through the course of the game, and will have to form an opinion towards it.
It was invented when the first new animals were found in the Southern Continent, and an approach on how to fit them into the castes was needed. As the Ark mythos states: “All Animals were of the Ark, and all are now of the Kingdom”. The statement was previously descriptive – it told of how the world is, and afterwards, when it was shown that there are Animals who didn’t even know there was a Kingdom to be a part of, it had to be prescriptive.
Rejecting the doctrine would have been fatal for the Kingdom, as it discouraged dissenters from leaving or forming new communities by framing the Kingdom as civilisation itself, or even civility itself. ‘Where would you even go?’ they ask, ‘There is nobody and nothing outside the Kingdom.’ The important aspect of the doctrine was that there was no alternative to the Kingdom, even in theory, there simply didn’t exist any successful societies outside of the Kingdom, only dens of bandits and lunatics doomed to failure within a generation.
To make sure that the idea of no alternative to the Kingdom alive and well, the Kingdom had to take a certain stance towards the natives: The Kingdom had to pretend that these natives never had a society, that they are simply backward savages who never figured out a form of social organisation beyond small villages. The Kingdom cannot abide by the idea that they have another ‘country’ as an enemy. Or any outside enemies at all. There is no one outside, so who could be an ‘outside enemy’?
Specifically, this means that the Kingdom denies that there is a Monkey society, let alone a Monkey Country or Kingdom. There is a Monkey culture, that’s not problematic, after all there is such a thing as a Squirrel Culture.
However, if these natives were once part of the Ark, which caste did they belong to? And in answering that, the scholars wish to answer – which caste should they belong to now? This is the field of “estateology”.
Within estateology, there are many possible approaches or schools of thought. However, all sides agree on the basic premise: the Castes reflect a certain inherrent moral aptitude, ie. the Cats are somehow better than the lower caste. Where this quality comes from is a matter of debate, and that’s how the schools are distinguished. The main two schools of thought are these:
- Historical Realism – The historical realists believe belonging to a caste is question of historical merit: the animals belong to a caste based on the merit of their behavior on the Ark (and by extension, Civilisation). The placement in the castes is like a criminal sentence/meritocracy and reflects a presendent for the behaviour of a certain species.
Thus, the historical realists consider the newfound animals in the colony (the natives) as part of the vermin caste (unless perhaps there is extensive mythological evidence to the contrary–an ancient mural for instance). The logic is simple: only Vermin would abandon the great cause of the Lion Kingdom, and since the native animals are not part of the kingdom, they must have abandoned it long ago, therefore they are Vermin.
This approach puts the newfound natives neatly in a caste, but doesn’t solve the more minute problems of the Kingdom – such as the “Mongrel Lord”: a Lion/Tiger hybrid who ruled an important noble family a few hundred years ago.
- Biological Descriptivism: Animals in each Caste have certain biological features in common, if you could only determine which features are salient for each Caste you could sort any conceivable animal into its appropriate caste. For instance: Commoners are small, Vermin have scales, Stewards are large and have imposing teeth or horns, etc.
By using biological descriptivism, the Natives species would have to be allocated to the appropriate castes based on their physical attributes, not merit. So, for example, monkeys, as small animals, would be put in the commoner caste. A bigger issue arises with animals such as crocodiles – who have features both of vermin (scales) and of burghers (large bodies).
One of the prime estateologists of the Kingdom – Germaine, Keeper of the Ark Hall, is a biological descriptivist, but both of the schools have equal footing in the Kingdom currently.
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